Mission Unaccomplished

The Nation, May 17, 2004 | Go to article overview

Mission Unaccomplished


When George W. Bush appeared aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln beneath a Mission Accomplished banner on May 1, 2003, to declare the end of "major combat operations," he was performing a PR stunt that embodied much that was--and is--wrong with his presidency. A year later, Bush is unable to admit error and continues to promote a false triumphalism. Instead of leveling with the American people about his Administration's miscalculations, he forbids the release of pictures showing the caskets of dead troops returning home, and instead of discussing options for ending a war that should never have been waged, he offers nothing but "stay the course" rhetoric.

Before the war began, Bush refused to confront the challenges that could be expected. As Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack shows, there was little conversation in the White House about what to do immediately following the invasion, and even less planning for the possible bloody time ahead. Recently, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "If you had said to me a year ago, 'Describe the situation you'll be in today one year later,' I don't know many people who would have described it--I would not have--described it in the way it happens to be today." But before the war, there were foreign policy experts who warned that an invasion would trigger instability and that US troops would be stuck, and dying, in Iraq for a long time.

In his aircraft carrier address, Bush continued to peddle the misleading reasons for the war, which he has stuck with ever since. He declared, "We've removed an ally of Al Qaeda." But there was no proof then--or now--that Saddam Hussein was a partner of the mass murderers of 9/11 or involved in the attacks.

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